User uShare Login | Register

Along with posting photos, videos, and stories, your uShare account lets you post Classified Ads, recipes on What's For Dinner, and Announcements.

70° View Weather Current Conditions Sioux Falls Change Location
Set Weather Options


TEMPERATURE LOCATION | Sioux Falls News & Weather, South Dakota News & Weather, Minnesota and Iowa News

[0] My Saved Articles
Find local businesses
on the KELO Pages!


Recognizing An Ace

August 6, 2012, 10:00 PM by Erich Schaffhauser

Recognizing An Ace

Having shot down dozens of planes, you've likely heard about World War II hero Cecil Harris from Cresbard. Or have you?
Despite his impressive war record, the South Dakota native is relatively unknown. But a group of veterans is working to change that.

"It was just astounding what all he had accomplished during World War II," Gerald Krueger said.

Krueger was on the alumni board at Northern State University in the 1990s when he and others were looking for famous former students to recognize. That's when he came across Navy veteran Cecil Harris’ name.

Krueger hadn’t heard of Harris so he started researching the Cresbard native. Ken Schroeder of Rapid City came across Harris' name in 2007.

"I spent 30 years in the Navy and I had never heard of him. And I'm a South Dakota boy and I'd never heard of him. His service, Cecil Harris' service and mine overlapped by seven years and I had never heard of him," Schroeder said.

So he also started researching and couldn't believe what he found.

As a Navy fighter pilot, Harris shot down 24 enemy planes during World War II. Most of those came during a few month-stretch serving in the Pacific when he didn't even get a scratch on his own plane.

"Second highest scoring ace in the Unites States Navy; most highly decorated reserve pilot of the war," Schroeder said.

Stories behind those numbers surprised Schroeder and Krueger as well. In Murdo, South Dakota, Harold Thune can share plenty of Harris stories.

"There were a lot of good pilots. Most of the kids who were in were good pilots, but he was exceptional," Thune said. "He was just a cut above."

A Navy pilot himself, Thune served in the same squadron as Harris. Thune was even the best man in his wedding. But thanks to Harris' skill in the sky, their connection goes beyond that.

"He did teach me a tactic that probably saved my life," Thune said.

That was a tactic to avoid an enemy plane if one arrives on your tail. Thune is convinced Harris saved numerous other lives too. As the war played out, well-known war heroes surfaced; Thune says Harris ranks among them.

"Definitely, very definitely,” Thune said. “I don't know why he didn't get the attention."

And that's the question a group of people working to bring attention to Harris’ war record is asking.

People in the group have placed a sign near Harris' hometown of Cresbard. And the state highway leading to it is named after him as well.

They're half way into a fundraising effort to pay for a bronze of Harris to sit on the Northern State University campus.  Harris is no longer living but those working to get him more recognition are also trying to get him the Congressional Medal of Honor.

"This guy never really got the recognition we felt he deserves," Schroeder said.

"It wasn't like somebody was wounded and he picked them up and walked them through rifle fire to get them back or something like that. But just the accomplishments of what he did certainly were very noteworthy. And the Congressional Medal of Honor would not be out of line for him at all," Thune said.

Thune says Harris was given a training position beyond his rank during the war because he was such a successful pilot.  But he didn't draw attention to his accomplishments either. So Thune is pleased to see others doing so now.

"He was an inspiration,” Thune said. “You were glad to be a part of it."

Anyone interested in contributing to the fundraising effort for the Harris sculpture on the NSU campus can send contributions to:

Northern State University Foundation
620 15th Ave SE
Aberdeen, SD 57401

Make check payable to Cecil Harris Statue NSU Foundation.

Previous Story

Next Story




View featured stories

You may also like

Mom Shares Her Story Of Overcoming Struggles With Breastfeeding

8/30/2015 10:07 PM

Life can be kind of hectic with a newborn.  Anne Burgdorf has two times the trouble with twins Hannah and John.  These four-month-old babies...

Full Story | Watch
Abbey Of The Hills

8/26/2015 10:15 PM

It boasts a peaceful and quiet retreat, but three years ago, Blue Cloud Abbey in northeast South Dakota closed.

Full Story | Watch
Inside KELOLAND: Teacher Shortage, March Into The Light

8/30/2015 6:19 PM

Next month, hundreds of people will gather in downtown Sioux Falls to erase the stigma and shame that are often associated with addiction.

Full Story | Watch
Funding Shift Leaves Rapid City School Projects On Hold

8/28/2015 10:23 PM

Public-school officials across South Dakota are searching for ways to raise staff pay and keep top-quality teachers. Many schools have turned for help...

Full Story | Watch
Veterans Taking The Sky

8/25/2015 10:26 PM

Getting together is the first step. The group has learned it's a long process to turn their drone dream into reality.

Full Story | Watch